As the weather gets a little warmer each week, I have a greater appreciation for all Westside residents who take the time to create and maintain their front yards.
I’m not referring to grass. I realize we’re in a drought and watering is limited, so I understand when I pass by a home if the lawn is brown. I’m referring instead to trees, shrubs and flowers in front of a home, creating a kind of front-yard garden.
I walk my two small dogs each day, and when I pass a home which has ornamental or shade trees, colorful flowers or green shrubs and plants, I feel thankful. The people who live in that home have made my life a little brighter. I’m guessing that most of my readers feel the same way.
I have a friend who lives a few blocks from me with a house I particularly enjoy passing, because she has planted different kinds of flowers for different seasons. In April, for example, her tulips of many colors are in full bloom. When tulip season is over other flowers pop up to keep my life as I walk by colorful.
Another neighbor recently planted succulents in her front yard on a small hill about 12 feet long. I find enjoyment in the various shades of green in this little garden and an occasional succulent in bloom.
A third person in my neighbor planted shrubs in her front yard which bloom profusely in pastel colors. What a delight to walk by that home.
I appreciate front-yard gardens so much because I’m such a lousy gardener myself. I don’t take delight in planting flowers or small shrubs, although at times I force myself to. When I do plant these living things, they usually die because I don’t take enough time to give them the care they deserve.
Persons with pleasing front yards, if they do their own gardening, often tend to their plants daily. In the summer that usually means going out early in the morning, before it gets too hot, while I’m still sleeping.
My role in front yard beauty is to ask professional landscapers to plant trees and shrubs for me. In the past year that has included a multi-trunk olive tree, a laurel tree, a vitex shrub shaped like a tree and, most recently, a Japanese maple.
I realize I need to make sure they get enough regular watering, which again I do out of duty rather than pleasure. My enjoyment comes from being a spectator, not a participant, in front yard gardens.
I do recognize, however, that in today’s world we need gardens of all kinds, in front and back yards, more than ever. Our world is becoming increasingly hectic and frantic.
Our senses and minds are bombarded by sounds and messages, especially on TV and in social media. We are pushed, pulled and prodded by advertisements and entertainments that leave us feeling frustrated and exhausted.
Psychologists and spiritual directors say that all humans need time and space for rest and reflection, design and beauty, stillness and quiet in order to be mentally, spiritually and physically healthy.
Gardens, whether front yard or back yard, whether flowers or vegetables, provide that space, which doesn’t have to be enclosed, as most front yards are not.
Back yards are important, too, although I don’t see them when I walk by a home. I applaud anyone, for example, who has a backyard vegetable garden.
I’ve tried growing my own vegetables at various points in my life, and invariably failed, simply because I was not patient or conscientious enough to plant properly or maintain what I had planted. Unfortunately, I have neither the aptitude nor the desire to grow my own vegetables.
I enjoy my backyard, which, although it has no vegetables, does include two lemon trees and one mandarin orange tree, various plants in pots my wife maintains and a white-flowering capers bush that a previous owner planted (along with the trees). I am grateful to those before me who have worked to create this wonderful back yard.
Today, however, I want to focus on front yards, and I want to thank every person in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Firebaugh and Santa Nella who has taken the time to create a front yard that creates delight. I consider it an act of kindness, for which I and other passersby are thankful.